Capital City Fire/Rescue responded to the scene of a structure fire the evening of Aug. 19, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Capital City Fire/Rescue responded to the scene of a structure fire the evening of Aug. 19, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

‘There was too much smoke’: Neighbors who tried to save house fire victim tell story

Investigation into appliance as possible fire origin ongoing

Neighbors of a woman killed in a house fire in Mendenhall Valley rushed in to save her Monday night, crawling through thick smoke and dragging her clear of the burning house.

“She was a wonderful woman,” said Josh Shetlar, Mona Azevedo’s neighbor.

Azevedo, 77, lived alone in her home. Shetlar was one of several neighbors who tried to save her, despite the danger from the smoke and flames.

“We moved in across the street about 22 years ago, and got to know her and her husband Ted,” said Azevedo’s neighbor, Debbie Soto. “Once her husband passed, we got really close to her and started doing Sunday dinners with her.”

Soto saw something was wrong when she went over to visit with Azevedo in her Dogwood Lane home Monday night.

“I was taking her a pot of soup on Monday night and that’s when I discovered her house was on fire,” Soto said.

When Soto saw there was a fire, neighbors ran in the home to try to save her. Several went to the front door, while Shetlar ran around back to try and get around.

“I kicked the back door open,” Shetlar said. “I tried to go in, but there was too much smoke.”

Shetlar said he crawled on his hands and knees to avoid the smoke and help get Azevedo out of the house. Once Azevedo was outside, one neighbor — a nurse — performed CPR, while he and others ran back to get fire extinguishers and suppress the blaze, Shetlar said.

“I wish I knew who he was but he just came out of nowhere and started performing chest compressions,” Soto said, describing the man who performed CPR.

Azevedo was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital, but attempts to resuscitate her failed, authorities said.

In spite of that, Soto was fulsome in her praise for the Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel responding to the fire.

“I can’t say enough about CCFR,” Soto said. “They were so compassionate and amazing and professional. I can’t thank the responders enough.”

[Woman dies in Mendenhall Valley house fire]

Medics at the scene said that Azevedo’s blood sugar was at extremely elevated levels, possibly contributing to her unconsciousness, Shetlar said. However, medical status is part of the investigation and officials couldn’t comment on it at due to health privacy laws.

“She loved to talk, loved to be around people,” Shetlar said.

Azevedo was a private person, but loved visitors, Soto said. She would quickly become friends with anyone who came by, and as happy to talk and tell stories about when she was younger. Born in Valdez and raised in Ketchikan, she married her husband, Ted Azevedo, who was from California, in Juneau.

“They loved to go on road trips. They loved to drive around Alaska. They also loved to drive down in the California-Neveda area,” said Soto. “They loved to go explore, go off the grid, drive into the back country.”

Azevedo and her husband never had children. When her husband died in 2013, Azevedo got out less and less, but still loved to go on trips around the area with people.

“She loved to go to the glacier and look at the bear Nicky. She loved Romeo, the wolf,” said Soto. “On sunny days we’d pick her up and take her to the beach and have a barbecue.”

According to CCFR Fire Marshal Dan Jager, the origin of the fire may be an appliance so thoroughly incinerated by the fire that he couldn’t say what it was.

“It was a melted glob on the countertop,” Jager said.

As part of their investigation, Jager said, CCFR will send the unidentifiable appliance to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lab in Maryland, which routinely does this kind of work to aid in investigations.

Azevedo’s body will also go to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for her autopsy. Jager said the fire does not appear to be suspicious. The examination of the appliance by the ATF will likely take two to four weeks, Jager said.

Jager did caution would-be rescuers to think very carefully before running into a fire unprepared and unequipped.

“We could have had at least one or two other victims in this fire,” Jager said.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


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